The never-ending Highway 82 relocation mess
It is hard for me to believe that the Glenwood Springs City Council is wasting its time talking about holding an election to have the public vote on the Highway 82 relocation route.Dont they realize that an election will result in nothing more than a popularity contest, dividing the electorate into warring factions fighting one another over emotional issues, with little if any regard for the practical conditions on which the decision must be made?Do we want Glenwood Springs to be another Aspen, which has conducted numerous elections on the alignment of the entrance to Aspen? After each of these nonbinding elections, the losing side files a petition for another election in the hopes of winning over enough voters to reverse the previous outcome.What is frustrating about the current indecision is that in 1999 the city retained a consultant, Balloffet & Associates, to compare the various Highway 82 relocation alternatives on the basis of environmental, social and economic impacts and relative costs. They presented the results to a broad-based citizen/business and technical advisory team in a series of work sessions. The final result was a unanimous endorsement of the railroad corridor as the best alternative for the relocation of Highway 82.Acting on the strength of that decision, City Council passed a resolution identifying the railroad corridor as the preferred alternative, and commenced the acquisition of the additional property needed to provide a 100-foot right-of-way width in those sections where the width of the existing right of way was less than 100 feet.What makes the whole discussion of a public election ludicrous is that that is not the way that highway locations are decided. There is a specified procedure which must be followed for any construction project in which federal funds will be involved (through the Colorado Department of Transportation), as they certainly will be in any relocation of Highway 82.That process requires a detailed analysis of future traffic volumes based on accepted population forecasts, and a thorough evaluation of all feasible alternatives, including the no-action alternative, which, as the name implies, means do nothing and live with the consequences. The evaluation of alternatives must be based on preliminary engineering designs and estimated construction costs for each, and detailed assessment of the environmental, social and economic impacts of each, both during the construction phase and the operation of the completed project. The preferred alternative will not be known until such a study is completed, so any discussion at this point serves no useful purpose and is meaningless. The guidelines for the study process mandate extensive public participation, and that is the appropriate framework for public input.The action that city council should be taking at this time, if it ever hopes to see any significant relief from the growing Grand Avenue traffic congestion, is to get the necessary study started. Until that study is completed, we will continue to be talking past one another without having any factual information to go on, while Grand Avenue becomes increasingly overwhelmed by traffic to the point of gridlock.Glenwood Springs resident Hal Sundins column runs every other Thursday in the Post Independent.
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